by Sebastian Africano, International Director
In use for roughly six months, the five composting latrines funded by Catapult supporters are now in full swing. Each latrine has two compartments, and soon, the first compartment will be filled, capped, and left to compost while the other is put into use. In the time it takes to fill the second compartment, the first will have composted into a “humanure” to be used by families as a soil amendment – great for fruit trees and certain cash crops. This is the closed loop that many of us in the world of ecological sanitation strive to be part of, and for those without basic sewage services, it’s a huge step up from an unsanitary pit latrine.
“It is gratifying that our work in El Salvador through Trees, Water & People leaves a trail of impact in communities and even public and private institutions and service organizations who use our support to develop projects that benefit the target population of their programs.” – Armando Hernandez, Project Director (translated by Sebastian Africano)
Risks and challenges
For anyone, the prospect of storing and then handling your family’s sewage is conceptually daunting. This is likely the biggest hump to get over when implementing a composting latrine project – getting people comfortable with managing poop. This is where appropriate design comes in – if a composting latrine is well designed, you shouldn’t smell anything, you shouldn’t see flies, and you should find nothing resembling anything but soil when you crack it open one year after first use. Getting people to that first “aha” moment is crucial in getting them to cross that conceptual hump and use their latrine year after year.
What we’ve learned
Visiting and monitoring a composting latrine program, or any ecological sanitation program, requires you to enter and speak composed and comfortably to families about some of their most personal household activities. It’s always educational, and it’s a great exercise in humility and in finding commonality with people who live in a completely different reality than you do. The important message to convey is that you’re there to learn and help rather than judge, and more often than not, families are welcoming and interested in hearing and discussing your observations. Sincere communication and education across cultural and societal lines are so important in our work.
There is a great need for sanitation services in rural El Salvador. Working with our partners on the ground, we will continue to look for the funds needed to build more composting pit latrines for communities in need. In addition to our fundraising efforts, we will continue to monitor and evaluate the latrines that have already been constructed.
If you would like to support this project please visit our website to make a donation today!